Hoisin-Glazed Pork Belly with Asian Salad

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I think this slow-cooked pork belly might be my new favourite meal. Quite the honour. Which is surprising, considering that I loathe both the taste and texture of fat. Yes, its fat content is high, but because the pork is slow-cooked, a large amount of fat renders out of the pork into the pan below. So you get super tasty, melt-in-your-mouth meat, without the slabs of fat you’d find around a chop, for example (*shudder*). The crackling is another story, but it is crunchy heaven, so just leave it be. This is also a great meal for entertaining, because you can get all your other things done while it’s in the oven. I made it for my book club last week, and their enthusiasm was unprecedented. Even though we had to eat during a load-shedding blackout. The hoisin glaze provides the sticky sweetness that pork needs, and the Asian salad is the perfect crisp, cool (healthy) balance to the soft, sweet pork and crunchy crackling. This dish is a game changer – make it for a dinner party, or a special dinner for two.

Hoisin-Glazed Pork Belly with Asian Salad

1.6 kg pork belly (boneless)
3 tblsp olive oil
coarsely ground sea salt
1 cucumber, deseeded and julienned
5 carrots, peeled and grated
200g baby spinach
2 red peppers, julienned
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp sesame seeds
* serves 5

Sauce:
4 tblsp hoisin sauce
2 tblsp honey
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp soya sauce
1 tblsp tomato puree/ketchup
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tblsp water

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Pat the pork dry with paper towel, rub olive oil all over it (even the skin) and season the skin generously with salt. Place on a metal rack over a roasting pan, and bake for 3 hours. [Every now and again, take a peak and check that the fat rendering out of the pork into the roasting pan isn’t burning. If it is, add some water to the roasting pan – just enough to cover the bottom]. Combine the sauce ingredients in a measuring jug. Take out the pork, baste the meat (base and sides, NOT the skin) with the marinade, and return to the oven for about 30min.

Okay, now you have two options: Option 1: Turn the oven onto ‘Grill’. Move the oven shelf up closer to the grill, and watch the pork rind bubble and crackle like a poppadom. Do not walk away during this time – it will be quick. You might need to shuffle the roasting tin around a bit to make sure you get all the pork skin crackled without burning it. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15min. Option 2: When you baste the pork, take a large, sharp knife and slide it under the top layer of pork fat/skin, removing it completely to another baking sheet/rack. Bake the basted pork for another 30min, as described above, and then grill the pork skin only (watching intently), while the pork is resting out the oven. Drain the crackling on paper towel, and the cut/breaks into chunks.

While the pork is cooking for its last 30min, make the salad. Scatter the baby spinach leaves on a platter, and top with the grated carrot and julienned red pepper and cucumber. Drizzle with the combined sesame oil and olive oil, and garnish with sesame seeds and a few slices of spring onion. Simplest. Salad. Ever. Bring the remaining sauce to the boil in the microwave, and brush a little onto the base of a large glass dish. Slice the pork thickly, brush the sides of each slice with some sauce, and arrange standing in the glass dish. Put the remaining sauce into a small bowl for the table, and let people help themselves to the pork and salad.

[Disclaimer: I have not actually tried Option 2. I did Option 1 – it was delicious, and easy, and I like that the crackling is still attached, but it was slightly trickier to get all the skin to crackle than I suspect it is for Option 2. I will try Option 2 next time and report back.]

 

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